LONDON — British and American dailies agreed on Thursday, July 5, that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has scored some points by securing the release of abducted BBC reporter Alan Johnston.
"That it actually obtained his release shows that Hamas wields power that is real and might, given time, be just sufficient to bring order to Gaza’s chaos," The Independent wrote in its editorial.
The BBC newsman was released by the Army of Islam early Wednesday, July 4, after nearly four months of captivity.
His release was attributed to the increasing pressures exerted by Hamas on the radical group after seizing control of the entire Gaza Strip last month.
"To be quite honest, I think if it hadn’t been for that real serious Hamas pressure, that commitment to tidying up Gaza’s many, many security problems, I might have been in that room for a lot, lot longer," a jubilant Johnston told reporters.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said Johnston’s release showed his group restored long-lost security and order to lawless Gaza Strip.
"We have been able to close this chapter which has harmed the image of our people greatly," he told Reuters.
The Guardian said that apart from Johnston himself, "the main beneficiary" of his release is undoubtedly Hamas.
"In a short space of time, Hamas has asserted its authority by securing Johnston’s release," it said in its editorial.
"Elsewhere in Gaza, Hamas is already showing itself more capable of maintaining order and security than Fatah was," added the daily.
"But with proven electoral support, and now an increasingly demonstrable ability to govern, Hamas is demanding to be treated as a legitimate political force, not dismissed as a pariah."
The United States and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group and suspended aid to the Palestinians when Hamas was voted to power last year.
The Daily Mail said Hamas has now taken one step toward being accepted by what it called the "civilized world".
"Let us hope it was the first of many," it added.
The Christian Science Monitor described the release of the BBC reporter as "an assertion of its [Hamas’s] new superiority over Gaza."
"Hamas’s mix of negotiations and a threat of force to gain the reporter’s release marks an epilogue to the Islamist group’s swift takeover of Gaza from the secular Fatah Party last month."
The daily noted that while the release is unlikely to end the international boycott imposed on Hamas, it "solidifies the group’s credentials as rulers with the ability to enforce their will."
The New York Times said the role of Hamas in securing Johnston’s release "has undoubtedly given its image a boost and gained in respectability."
It noted that sacked prime minister Ismail Hanyiah "has put himself back in the international limelight."
Give Hamas Chance
Israeli analyst Dror Zeevi called for giving Hamas a chance.
"It would be a mistake to boycott Hamas," he wrote Thursday in the Yediot Ahronot daily.
"The rational mode of action would be to listen to what its leadership has to say and to try and reach an agreement with them," he said.
"The hysterical calls are blinding us from seeing the positive sides of the Hamas takeover."
The Israeli expert insisted that after years of lawlessness under President Mahmoud Abbas and his government, Hamas has started "restoring an organized rule" in the Gaza Strip.
"In my opinion, Hamas has a reasonable chance of succeeding; unfortunately, probably more so than Abbas in the West Bank."
International Crisis Group analyst Moin Rabbani said Johnston’s release was a message to the West.
"Hamas says to the international community you are saying we are terrorists, you want Mahmud Abbas, who has not controlled Gaza for almost two years, to disarm us. Well after less than three weeks we managed to release Johnston," he elaborated.
"This liberation can be used to demonstrate to the public that they are more capable of restoring order."
New British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Wednesday that efforts to secure Johnston’s release "by the international community, local Palestinian leaders and Hamas won’t go unmentioned or unrecognized."